Belfast Telegraph

‘I know air tax is causing damage’

It's time the procrastination ended so we can grab the opportunity to deliver lasting benefits for Northern Ireland

By Graham Keddie

The commitment to review the operation of air passenger duty (APD) is progress, but not as much as we would have liked.

The confidence and supply deal hammered out between the DUP and the Conservatives will deliver real benefits for Northern Ireland, but much more could be achieved if the Government devolved APD and the charge was then consigned to the bin. So, what should happen next?

As the main voice for the ending of APD, we will now intensify our lobbying and, of course, play our part in a promised detailed consultative report on the impact of VAT rates within the hospitality sector and APD.

Naturally enough, we have more questions than answers. How long will it take to complete a report? What will be the report's precise terms of reference? How will it be undertaken, and who exactly is going to write it? And What input will we have in the process?

We don't need this fudged any longer. All of us know how much damage is being caused to our sector and how it's holding back immense growth, investment and job creation.

The £26 APD being applied to a return flight between Northern Ireland and airports in mainland UK hands the advantage to the Republic of Ireland, which had the good sense to do away with the passenger tax some years back, expressly to benefit themselves due to the high ongoing air tax in the UK.

Airlines, too, are holding back on attractive investment plans.

Right now, with a supportive approach, current and prospective airlines are capable of adding, at a minimum, one million annual seats and three additional based aircraft with us, which would create 1,000 jobs and represent an investment of upwards of £200m.

The sums add up. One thousand new jobs would mean up to £20m in wages and salaries into the local economy.

The icing on the cake is that all these jobs and investment would not require a penny in direct support from the Northern Ireland Government.

So, let's look to a future when growth in trade and tourism can really help our local economy to flourish and let's do this with a sense of purpose and determination.

No more aimless procrastination, please. Instead, grab the opportunity that's within our reach and get on with delivering genuine, tangible and lasting benefits for Northern Ireland.

  • Graham Keddie is managing director of Belfast International Airport

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